My amazing conversation with my Muslim Arab friend
In my line of work I get to meet and work with many interesting people from around the world. A few years ago I hired a freelancer from the small island nation of Cyprus to work on a few of my projects. He is quite an energetic fellow in his mid twenties, married and with a young child. Sometimes I would ask him to help me with something, and sometimes I would do him a favor or two. Every now and then he would contact me and we would just talk about business and about life in our respective countries. We would never get into either politics, nationalism or religion. I always assumed him to be an Eastern Orthodox Christian from Cyprus (the majority of that island’s inhabitants). Until recently, that is. Here’s my conversation with Ahmed (not his real name) from two days ago (edited to be more readable):
Ahmed: Is your wife an American and were you born in the States?
Me: No, we are both from Ukraine – but our kids are “Americans.”
Ahmed: Me and my wife have been to Ukraine and my cousin is in Kiev Ukraine right now, studying.
Me: Really, you have been there?! What’s your cousin studying for?
Ahmed: Yes, we have. He’s studying to be a doctor.
Me: I guess that’s because Cyprus doesn’t have too many universities of its own, right?
Ahmed: No, my cousin is Lebanese and my own origin is Lebanese.
Me: Christian Lebanese, right?
Ahmed: Hahaha, no, I’m a Muslim!
Me: Well, I am Jewish! No kidding… (I was a bit startled, and awaited his reaction to this “news”).
Ahmed: Peace, I am from north Lebanon. Have you heard of Tripoli? (Note: this is a city in Lebanon, not the capital of Libya by the same name).
Me: Yes, I have.
Ahmed: I have always felt you are a Jew. This is my third time. (Note: the third time that he has had a conversation with a Jew.)
Me: How did you “feel” that?
Ahmed: I don’t know how or why! I just feel it. I was once in Nigeria with my uncles (they have construction company there), I met some Jews. I just felt they were (even before I met talked to them). I met some lovely Jews in Nigeria, from Israel.
Me: Hey, we are cousins! You are Arab, right?
Ahmed: My grandfather says we are not, but my father says we are Arabs (Note: Lebanon was home to various people groups who were all arabized at some point). Well, we speak Arabic, but Lebanon is the only country that is named as Republic of Lebanon (meaning that it doesn’t have “Arab” in its name like every other Arab country).
Me: Did you know that some researchers claim that many in Lebanon are actually Jews that Romans didn’t kick out? There was some genetic testing done. So, my friend, we may be more related than you thought!
Ahmed: Yes, it’s true, I have read something about that. They made a lot of testing.
Ahmed: Are there a lot of Jews in Ukraine?
Me: There were a lot of Jews – but most have gone to Israel or U.S. Now there are mostly some old folks who didn’t want to (or couldn’t) leave.
Ahmed: I know that Israel is supporting those who want to leave to Israel. Why did not you go there? I see it on pictures only, it’s amazing!
Me: We almost did, but I had relatives in U.S. going back to 1900′s. We were able to come as Jewish refugees. In Israel I would have had to go to army, and my parents were afraid (plus, American life is easier)
Ahmed: I see. But that is your country! If it was me I would go…
Me: You are right – I’ve been there (visiting my family) – may be some day I’ll move and then you can visit me:). (I am feeling a little guilty at this point – a Muslim Arab is making me feel guilty about not living in Israel!!!!)
Ahmed: Jews are successful – I always think of how they made Israel, in no time. All the wars that were and are there and Israel today is really amazing. I watch videos and look at photos (of Israel) because I am very curious. And look at Arabs….hell.
Me: I am glad that you feel that way, even though you are a Muslim:) People are people.
Ahmed: I don’t know why… Listen, when I was a child or say 15 years old, I have had a damn bad idea about Israel and Jews. I was thinking Israel is really taking our lands, killing Palestinians, [they are] war criminals, etc… When I grew up I wanted to see what is the “Jew”, what kind of religion. They (Arab propaganda) make it like hell. Oh no, I want see. I read some books. I found out it is so close to our way of worshiping, it is so close, very very very close, and too far away from Christians! And then I wanted to know about land issues. I say now: oh yeah, we got 50 Arab countries, they (Jews) got none, just that one. So let them live in peace and give them more! I was watching the Aljazeera channel and one day I wanted to change. I learned a lot when I discovered so much. Yes believe me, its so true. I have always been interested in a Jew and in Israel – those two (things). I learned lot – I got to a point were I say Jews are the most hurt people on earth. From the beginning and they are getting hurt.
Me: Well, you have one Jew friend here. You’re very opened minded, that’s great. Yes, I went through quite a bit growing up in Ukraine.
Ahmed: Oh man, when I learned about the Jew religion I was so surprised – same things forbidden in Islam are forbidden in Jew. Also, the marriage life , the prayer… and those things are so close.
Me: Yes, very close – after all, we have the same father, Avraham!
Ahmed: I’m telling you – a Jew is way too far from Christianity! And makes me feel sad of how much Jews and Muslims are far from each other nowadays and how close Christians are to Jews. Makes me enjoy this relationship. I have discovered that Jew military does not kill, but the Arab fighters are using civilians to hide behind. From that I knew that I was wrong when I was a child. I told you something before - I met like 7 Jews in my life - each time I met someone I felt he was a Jew.
Me: May be you are one yourself – you seem to have a “Jew-dar” (Jewish radar that can spot Jews)!
Ahmed: Hahaha… who knows… Listen… Arabs are really sweet and very welcoming. But we have a very big problem. The sheiks (mullahs), the religion men, they know nothing about Jew religion! I have never seen them teaching – they don’t know anything!
Me: It’s a sibling rivalry – each brother wants to be the favorite son.
Ahmed: True – I hope they make peace.
Me: One day, I believe, when Messiah comes, Jews and Arabs will be brothers again.
Ahmed: So that Lebanese can visit Israel! It was cool to know that you are a Jew – we talk!
Me: And that you are a Muslim / Arab…